Rose Keating’s weekly column as published in the Waterford News & Star’s Well! magazine
WHAT is it about leaving that always feels so good?
At the moment, I’m kneeling on the carpet of my bedroom floor. I’ve finally begun packing for my journey to return to Cork for the new semester, and I’ve torn my house apart in the process.
To say I’m surrounded by chaos would not be a strong enough statement; I do not believe there is a word in existence that would fully encapsulate the extreme degree of disarray that my room is currently in.
My wardrobe has imploded, sending skirts and slips and socks sailing through the air and on to every available surface – or so one would assume, upon first glancing at this hellscape. Novels are flung across the nightstand, notepads crushed under bedframe, hardbacks hanging off the drawers.
And how do I begin to address the many oozing, stinking products I found under my bed – the forgotten banana peels, the apple cores, the half empty bottles of wine that have been there so long that they are now in the process of becoming vinegar.
But, in spite of the hazardous havoc, I am having the time of my life. I’m tidying my shelves, binning my rubbish, brushing away all the cobwebs. I am blaring music too loud and know that my mum will soon come up the stairs to tell me off for it. But for now, I’m turning the volume higher, twirling to the song faster, and singing even louder in celebration of the most wonderful thing in the world – I will soon be leaving home. Soon be going somewhere new.
I feel a little guilty, to be so excited about leaving home. It seems to imply that there is something about home that is lacking. Something that can’t quite keep me satisfied.
But it’s not home’s fault. It’s not Waterford’s fault. It is never the fault of the place I am in, because I have a theory – no matter where I am, no matter what city, country, continent I am residing in, I will always feel an electric thrill at the thought of leaving it all behind.
When I left Ireland to go to Groningen, I was elated. When I left Groningen to return to Ireland, I was elated. When I leave Cork to come home to Waterford for the summer, I am elated. When I leave Waterford to return to Cork, I am elated.
I’m beginning to think that this feeling of elation doesn’t really come from the happiness of leaving any particular place. I don’t think it comes from the happiness of going to any particular place either. I don’t think this feeling of elation is connected whatsoever to actually liking or disliking any single place in particular.
I think there’s just a very strong chance that I enjoy the act of leaving, regardless of the destination.
Did you ever try to run away as a kid? Not even because you were sad or mad or just a little bad. Not because anything was wrong. But just because it was exciting. Getting your little plastic back from a kitchen cupboard, sneaking it up the stairs. Stuffing it with things like whistles, teddies, bubbles, neon pink nail polish, Barbie dolls – all the essentials of survival. Going back down stairs to collect nourishment for your adventure – a clementine, maybe a cheese string you find in the fridge – they would keep you going through the harsh winter months. And then, tiptoeing out the door into the bright light of day. And then, running, breathless, bag in hand. Running, running, running away – you could run away anywhere. No one could stop you. You were at the start of the adventure, at the beginning of the movie, at the moment when everything is possible.
I usually only made it as far as the big tree at the end of the street before I got cold feet and scuttled back home in time for tea. But in those moments of packing, those moments of leaving, I felt like absolutely anything could happen.
The thing is, even though I know logically as an adult that there’s a strong chance that nothing that dramatic will happen upon leaving for Cork, that feeling still remains. That moment when I’m preparing for the journey, high on nerves, when I think; who knows what could happen? Who knows who I will be, what I will do, if I leave for somewhere new?
It’s that moment when you open the front door, suitcase in hand. When you get on the bus, watching the quay whirl away. When you sit back, giddy and breathless and realise that you have no idea what is coming next.
That moment is the thing I love. That moment is the reason I don’t think I will ever really want to stay anywhere for all that long.
Underneath it all, I’m still a child who will always love running away.